Culver Building Trades Instructor Talks Program’s Importance
Writer / Angela Cornell
Kyle Elliott, building trades program instructor for Culver Community Schools Corporation, has seen firsthand the caliber of junior and senior high school students and has been impressed by their work ethic.
“There are young kids out there who want to do things right and want to work hard to do it,” Elliott says. “It’s amazing what you can do when kids are working hard and they’re working together.”
In the last 43 years that the high school has offered this program, hundreds of young people have learned the basics of construction, and by extension, teamwork, by building a house in the Culver area.
Throughout the North Central Co-op, which encompasses 10 schools in the area, there are three building trades programs including John Glenn and Plymouth. What sets Culver apart, among other factors, is that it is one of the oldest trades programs in the state.
Every year since 1979, high school juniors and seniors from Culver, Knox and North Judson come to Culver High School to learn how to build a quality house. Many of these students then join the building trades after graduation, going on to become an electrical contractor, pipe fitters, plumbers and excavators, both locally and around the nation.
The Culver building trades program has a reputation for building quality homes, to the point that the waiting list is longer than most would expect. However, as many homeowners in and around Culver would attest, it’s well worth the wait.
Before someone can get on the waiting list, they must first own land. When it’s the landowner’s year, Elliott will help develop and finalize a building design. Each is unique, and that keeps it exciting for Elliott and all the students, especially those who are returning to the program for their senior year.
“Last year was a single-story ranch style, and this year is a two story,” Elliott says. “We get a mix of homes. It varies year to year.”
Although the home is made by students who are putting their all into doing a quality job, and who are supervised by people who have done this many times and have a reputation for doing it right, the house comes at a discount to the homeowner. In fact, the school charges the homeowner only 20% above material cost for all the labor that the students put in. From that, $1,000 is given as a scholarship to a graduating senior. The rest goes directly back into the program for equipment, supplies and other costs.
From the first week of school, teaching the students how to do the job excellently, safely and according to code is of the utmost importance. “The kids are in-house here at the school,” Elliott says. “We cover job-site safety and things of that nature. Then after that, we’re basically at the house about every day. We try to do everything we can. We’re actually starting the frame the first week that we’re out at the house.”
Every year the students do most if not all of the exterior work – the framework, windows, doors and roofing. In the interior, the students also do all of the electrical work and drywall installation, as well as trimming and cabinetry. While it is a great learning opportunity for students to hone their skills and gain practical experience, it is essential to note that some aspects of the construction process such as drywall installation might require professional services like those at DFW Superior Drywall Pros.
The rest of the work depends on the size of the home. Some aspects of the building are, by necessity, left to those who are certified, like the foundation, masonry, plumbing (like these bathroom plumbing services in Greer, SC), heating and drywall finishing. Nonetheless, you don’t have to look for every type of contractor, just focus on finding the ones that you need, if you have plumbing issues then contact a plumbing contractor, if your roof is damaged then call a roofing contractor for anew roof installation and further on.
The program’s continued success is largely due to the foundation laid by the inaugural instructor. Bob Trigg started the program as a way to give young people the ability to learn a trade. He was the teacher for 14 years, after which time Elliott, who is a Culver graduate and program participant himself, was hired as the new instructor. For the last 29 years Trigg worked alongside the school as an advisory board member until he officially retired last October.
Anyone who is interested in being put on the waiting list is welcome to send Elliott a letter of interest, complete with personal contact information. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The public is welcome to come out and see the house that the program’s students made this year. The open house will be on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. For more information, watch the school’s Facebook page at facebook.com/culvercommunityschools.